David J. Phillip/Associated Press
“To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best.” You hear it from every corner of competition in the United States, where an incumbent stands alone at the top of the mountain until some David comes along with a slingshot and a dream. Staging such a coup carries utilitarian value, allowing the spoils to seep from the victors to those fast approaching. Sometimes David’s reign is short, a new David knocking his predecessor from the apex before he even has a chance to set his feet.
The Kentucky Wildcats were innocent until proven guilty. Then, just as quickly as Wisconsin seized the throne, they relinquished it to the unlikeliest of under-the-radar foes, Mike Krzyzewski’s Duke Blue Devils. With an historically uncharacteristic combination of star freshman talent and senior leadership, Duke charged through the 2015 NCAA Tournament with unprecedented fury, ripping the target off its back and tossing it into a garbage can in Indianapolis.
It wasn’t supposed to end like this. From the time of the Harrison twins’ announcement that they would skip the NBA Draft to return to Kentucky, these Wildcats were destined for greatness. It was a foregone conclusion that their talent, combined with John Calipari’s recruiting savvy and masterful ability to temper superstar egos, would lead to a national championship this year. Any questions about their season only existed as formalities, much like their opponents: entertain them, but know that the answer is so obvious as not to be ignored. Until it isn’t.
I was up until 7 am this morning. I slept for two hours, then I got back up and continued working. I was building a machine, ideally capable of unlocking the greatest of life’s mysteries: The NCAA Bracket.
I love college basketball. I love March Madness. But more than either of those I love brackets, and the futile chase for perfection that they represent. For the past two years, this March Madness of mine has driven me to create my own sort of Frankenstein’s monster: a bracket of brackets to determine which bracket I enter into my friendly neighborhood bracket pool. Does this sound convoluted to you? Does it seem like a waste of time? Well then turn around now, because we’re about to turn the convolution up to 11.
It’s that time of year again: the snow is (finally) melting (maybe, I’m actually not really sure what grass looks like anymore), birds are chirping, flowers are blooming, and no one will shut up about college basketball. That’s right, March Madness is upon us. I have a lot of problems with March Madness (huge lie, I have one problem with March Madness, and that’s the fact that it ends in April. Seriously, why is the championship game in April?). But, because I am a follower, and I have to be involved in everything that everyone else in the world is involved in, I filled out a bracket.
Update 1 – 12:28pm
I just arrived at the Downingtown chapter of Buffalo Wild Wings, one of my favorite establishments in these United States. It was here that I enjoyed almost every NFL Sunday this season. It was here that I bought a round of Jameson shots for strangers when the Seahawks miraculously tied the Packers in the NFC Championship to force overtime, and then picked up those strangers in pure elation after RUSSELL HUSTLE BUSTLE WILSON won the game, prompting another round of Jameson shots.
I have often said that this is my happiest place on Earth. Give me $50 and a full slate of sports at BWW, and I might as well be on vacation in Hawaii for a week. This is the shit that I live for.
College basketball has become an Etch-A-Sketch. Each year, as the season progresses, an elaborate drawing forms. Star players emerge, storylines form, Cinderella crashes the ball, and by the end, we’re left with an ornate image to remember the season by. But the moment the season ends, the slate is wiped clean, because any player using half of what he learned in his introductory business classes is packing his bags and heading straight to the NBA Draft. The next season, we learn the names of a new crop of freshman, the names of tomorrow’s lottery picks, and the cycle repeats itself, with a brand new drawing.
My bracket sucks. But if you’re being honest, so does yours. We all take part in this ritual every year, filling out a bracket and placing our hopes and dreams for riches in the hands of a collection of college kids who can bounce a ball up and down on a hardwood floor better than you and I. Every year it ends the same way, crumpling your bracket into a ball and trying to throw it through the miniature basketball hoop above your garbage bin. You always miss the shot too. Insult to injury.
The problem is this, we only think about filling out this bracket during the few days between Selection Sunday and the first tip in the Round of 64. We don’t analyze our mistakes when the NCAA Tournament is freshest in our heads; instead, we wait and repeat the same mistakes that sunk our bracket the previous year.
Well, not me. Not this time.